In a significant development, the Karnataka High Court has issued a warning to Facebook, stating that it would consider ordering the closure of the social media giant’s operations in India. The court’s warning came in response to the alleged non-cooperation of the Meta platform (formerly known as Facebook) with state police in an investigation involving a fake profile.
Court Warns Facebook of Closure in India Over Non-Cooperation in Investigation
Court warns of consequences if social media giant fails to cooperate in investigation
The warning was delivered during a hearing of a petition submitted by Kavitha, a resident of Bikarnakatte near Mangaluru in Dakshina Kannada district. The case revolves around Kavitha’s husband, Shailesh Kumar, who was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. While Kumar worked in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, Kavitha remained in India with their children.
The incident dates back to 2019 when Kumar expressed his support for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Facebook. Allegedly, he received a threat call in response to his post, prompting him to delete his account. Subsequently, an unidentified individual created a fraudulent Facebook account in Kumar’s name and posted objectionable content against the King of Saudi Arabia and Islam.
Karnataka High Court Issues Warning to Facebook: Possible Shutdown in India
Upon discovering the fake account, Kumar informed his family, and his wife filed a police complaint in Mangaluru. However, due to the police’s failure to complete the investigation into the fraudulent profile, Kavitha approached the High Court seeking intervention. Justice Krishna S Dixit presided over the hearing on Wednesday.
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Earlier this month, on June 12, the High Court ordered the Commissioner of Police, Mangaluru, to explain the significant delay in investigating the matter. During the recent hearing, the police commissioner informed the court that Facebook had not cooperated with the investigation. Facebook’s counsel claimed to have no information about the exact location of the incident, prompting the court to issue the warning of a potential shutdown if cooperation was not provided.
Warning from Karnataka High Court: Facebook’s Activities in India at Risk of Closure
Facebook’s counsel requested a week’s time to submit the required information, and the court adjourned the hearing to June 22. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was included as a party to the petition on May 29, 2023.
Kavitha has also reached out to the Central government for assistance in securing Kumar’s release. In response, the High Court ordered the government to outline the steps taken to protect an Indian citizen falsely imprisoned abroad.
Facebook Faces Shutdown in India as Karnataka High Court Raises Concerns
Pavan Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer and Chairman of the International Commission on Cyber Security Law, warned that Facebook is “playing with fire.” He emphasized that as an intermediary under the Information Technology Act 2000, Facebook is obligated to comply with Indian laws. Failure to cooperate could lead to the loss of statutory exemptions and potential legal consequences under the Indian Penal Code and the IT Act 2000.
The court’s warning serves as a reminder that social media platforms operating in India must adhere to the country’s laws and actively cooperate in investigations. Failure to do so could result in severe consequences, potentially leading to a shutdown of operations. Facebook and Meta are urged to comply with the court’s directives to avoid further legal complications and potential penalties.